I’ve never played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In fact, I’ve spent more time with the first NES title (via the 3DS Virtual Console) than the much loved SNES classic. When I was young, I didn’t give A Link to the Past the time of day because I didn’t find it appealing based off the screen captures on the back of my Super Nintendo’s console box. I didn’t subscribe to gaming magazines and thus had only small screen caps and box covers to inform me. With those sources of information, A Link to the Past often fell second the likes of Super Metroid.
As the years rolled on, I let opportunities to play A Link to the Past slip by me as I had no affinity to the franchise. But in the mid-2000’s, my Zelda drought came to an end with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. I was captivated.
I followed Wind Waker with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass but I didn’t finish it. It was too simple and just couldn’t muster the motivation to follow through with it. It wouldn’t be until 2013 that I finished my second Zelda game.
After titles like Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was a relief. Nintendo reminded me to take breaks (which I occasionally obeyed) but that was it. There weren’t any lengthy tutorials or talks, I was in the thick of things within minutes. I was slicing grass, collecting Rupees and exploring with nary a restriction. I loved it.
Nintendo broke the long standing tradition of drip feeding and offered the basic tools of the trade from the get go. I wasn’t slogging through dungeons and other locales wondering when I would acquire the bomb, boomerang or hookshot anymore. A merchant named Ravio took over Link’s home and offered up all those common Zelda tools for rent or purchase. Renting was the cheaper option but all the items I rented would be taken away if Link perished in battle. I eventually owned everything as Rupees were so abundant. Wholly owned tools were also upgradable by the giant sea creature dubbed “Mother Maimai”. All she asked in return was for Link to gather her children scattered throughout Hyrule and Lorule.
The hook for A Link Between Worlds was Link’s ability to turn himself into a 2D painting and move along walls. He was also able to traverse between Hyrule and its no so stellar mirror world, Lorule. I’m very wary of these dual world games because they can end up being tedious and annoying. I was pleased to discover that Lorule was an interesting location and the puzzles that existed between the two worlds were well designed.
I found the 2D painting mechanic to be the most clever mechanic in a long time. It kept me on my toes as I was always on the look out for surfaces to flatten to. I wish more boss battles utilized the mechanic but I guess that would have diluted it.
I took my time with A Link Between Worlds. I didn’t even use the fast travel system until late. I wanted to check and double check each area. It was also an opportunity just enjoy that soundtrack. Even now, days after I finished the game, I am still finding myself humming Lorule’s overworld theme.
I initially believed the world was too small. I was able to traverse from one side of the world to the other within a couple of minutes. I didn’t account for was how dense each area was. I was revisiting areas and discovering tidbits that weren’t initially accessible or I didn’t know were accessible with the tools in hand.
If someone had told the 1993 version of me that A Link to The Past and Super Metroid shared mechanics such as gating weapons and giant spaces and dungeons to explore, I would have given the SNES classic a shot and my view on A Link Between Worlds may have been different. But I didn’t experience the Zelda franchise in that way and with that in mind, I found this 2013 3DS title to be the definitive top down Legend of Zelda title.
For more information on The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, visit the official website.